Back in August, Running Redskins posted a tongue-in-cheek story on the Redskins' trade for TJ Duckett. The move was so unexpected, and this being Washington, it was easy to write this up as a vast conspiracy. With the puzzling non-use of Duckett by a struggling team, the question arises "why is TJ here?" Running Redskins takes a second look at each of the conspiracy theories.
- The Portis is more hurt than they are letting on conspiracy - No doubt, losing CP in the first series of the first preseason game was a shock. But Portis proved a fast healer, appearing and scoring in the Minnesota game and returning full time in week three for Houston. He was less hurt than the coaches feared. Ladell Betts was nursing a leg injury at the time.
Pierson Prioleau went down in the opening kick-off of the first preseason game. The loss of Prioleau had a more immediate and longer lasting impact than Portis. Because of it, Mike Rumph and Kenny Watson are on the roster, each with a big neon sign saying "throw here." Investing a third round draft choice on a starting nickel-back or safety would have been a wiser choice, if panic hadn't blindly driven a move to back-up Portis.
Both Portis and Betts recovered a lot faster when Duckett arrived. There's value in that.
- The "Ladell is really good" talk was just hype conspiracy - This theory was that the Redskins hyped up Betts to draw trade offers and maybe recover the draft choice they gave up to get Duckett. It presumed Duckett would be the real number two back and Betts was a goner. Subsequent events suck all the air out of this thought.
- The They planned this all along conspiracy - This theory recalled that Duckett ran roughshod over the defense when the Skins played the Atlanta Falcons in September 2003. Duckett's two TD runs helped the Falcons build a 17-0 lead (the Skins won 33-31). The game made an impression on the Redskins and they coveted the big back ever since. The conspiracy was that they would use Duckett in the John Riggins role and Clinton Portis in the Joe Washington role. Like the "Ladell is really good" conspiracy, events prove this wrong.
- The Confound the Opponents conspiracy - In a nutshell, this theory said that Duckett gave the Redskins options on the ground in the same way that Brandon Lloyd and Twaan Randel El gave options through the air. Shock and awe on the ground and in the air would overwhelm defenses. Them were heady, delusional days back in August. My Kool-Ade was grape. What flavor was yours?
- The Die Eagles Die conspiracy - This idea was that the Redskins grabbed Duckett to keep him off Philadelphia's roster. True confession, I was just trying to deride "Fly Eagles Fly." A day or so later, I heard Doc Walker express the same thought (great minds) on SportsTalk 980. The fact pattern supports this conspiracy.
The Eagles are in contention without Duckett. Andy Reid continues to show a stunning disregard for power running, so their interest may not have been genuine. In any event, better to invest draft choices to build your own roster rather than to degrade someone else's.
- The Aren't We Being Clever conspiracy - Ladell Betts is in his contract year. Duckett, also in his contract year, is here as negotiation leverage against Betts. By playing both, their stats would be depressed, thus lowering their market value to the point where one or the other would be affordable.
For this to be true, they would both have to be playing. Betts is running up numbers. Duckett's market value is eroding, potentially, because he has no stats to polish off his resume. Instead, GMs will approach him as the man behind Rock Cartwright on the depth chart. They won't actually believe that, but hey, it's business.
This conspiracy could be too clever by half. The New York Giants have a huge void to fill at running back. Ever notice the resemblence between Betts and Joe Morris? Meanwhile, Duckett could be the big back the Giants thought Ron Dayne would be. He'll be fresh and cheap, thanks to the Redskins.
- Last, there is the Denver is Really Stupid and So Is Atlanta conspiracy - This one appeared in the post "Good-bye Ladell" at The Curly R on August 23, 2006. It castigated the Redskins' trading partners, Denver and Atlanta, for exchanging players of questionable value to each other. The curly boys surmised that the Skins would immediately trade Betts to recover the draft choice that went to Atlanta that went to Denver.
This theory is busted. Washington did not trade Betts. Javon Walker is Denver's number one receiver (39, 669, 5 TDs) and Denver knows how to use Washington draft choices. They used the Portis for Bailey draft pick to select Tatum Bell, their leading rusher. Ashley Lelie has only 17 catches for 298 yards for Atlanta. Duckett? Five touches for 24 yards.
Bottom line - Duckett was brought here in a panic, without any real intent to make use of his talent. Even if the "Die Eagles Die" conspiracy has merit, and the facts do fit the theory, there were far better ways to use the draft pick, as Mike Shanahan will show us.
Over at Redskins Park, the coach-in-chief defends the front office structure and use of trades. I believe what he says, because he's, you know, the coach-in-chief.Photo: TJ Duckett and coach Ernest Byner from redskins.com